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Photograph of Joseph B. Felt in Kolbe & Fanning Catalogue


A highly important lot in Kolbe & Fanning’s upcoming New York Book Auction on January 10 is lot 285, a virtually complete set of both the Massachusetts Historical Society’s Collections and Proceedings. These volumes, absolutely essential for any research involving the early history of New England, include important early U.S. numismatic publications, most notably the foundational articles by James Mease and J. Francis Fisher found in the third series of the Collections. However, little-known numismatic nuggets await discovery throughout the 178 volumes present for both series.

One such “nugget” is this photograph, taken in May 1855, of members of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Published in Volume II of the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society (published 1880, covering 1835-55), the photo depicts a number of prominent historians and scholars of the period. Included among their number is Joseph B. Felt, author of An Historical Account of Massachusetts Currency (1839). Based on two lectures given before the MHS, this enduring history of Massachusetts coins and currency is one of the first major works, and certainly the most important early effort, to comprehensively cover an American numismatic topic.

Felt is seated second from the left (from our perspective) in the photograph, which is the only photo of Felt either George Kolbe or David Fanning recall seeing. The MHS Proceedings volume identifies everyone in the photo as follows:

Seated in center: James Savage

Moving from Savage to the left: Josiah Quincy, Jared Sparks, John C. Gray, Rev. William Jenks, Nathan Appleton, Rev. J.B. Felt, Charles Francis Adams.

Moving from Savage to the right: Lemuel Shaw, Edward Everett, William H. Prescott, Daniel A. White, David Sears, Abbott Lawrence, Rev. G.W. Blagden, George Ticknor.

Standing, left to right: Rev. Chandler Robbins, Charles Deane, Richard Frothingham, Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, Joseph Willard, Rev. W.P. Lunt, Rev. S.K. Lothrop, Rev. Geo. E. Ellis, George S. Hillard, and Robert C. Winthrop.

The Proceedings record notes that as the number of resident members was at that time limited to sixty, nearly half of them were included in this photograph.

Kolbe & Fanning’s public auction will be held on Saturday, January 10, 2015 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The sale will be held in conjunction with the New York International Numismatic Convention. Printed catalogues have been mailed to established clients. A PDF of the catalogue has been posted to the Kolbe & Fanning website at www.numislit.com. Prospective bidders may also access the live online catalogue and register to bid throughauction.numislit.com. Please contact David Fanning at [email protected] for more information.

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